Small annoyances can become big marriage problems. What do I mean by small annoyances? Socks on the floor, cap off the toothpaste, water on the counter, putting a milk container with just one ounce of milk back in the refrigerator without buying more or putting it on the shopping list, leaving things on the passenger seat of the car, going missing while you’re shopping, getting out of bed second and leaving it unmade.
Which ones annoy you depends on your early experiences, your personality, and the sensitivity of your senses. And none of these are the same for your spouse, so the annoyance is not likely to be intentional unless you two have some other competition going on.
Just as you cannot enjoy a camping trip if you focus all of your attention on a mosquito bite or a buzzing fly, just as you cannot enjoy a meal if you obsess about the water stain on your knife, you cannot enjoy your marriage if you let yourself get distracted by these annoyances.
So, how do you ignore them? Well, you could time how long it takes to do the work you wish your spouse would do. If it’s less than a few minutes (and it’s often actually just seconds, I’ve discovered), just do it. Remember back to how much time you spent on looking for someone to love and on getting ready for every time you saw each other. That was a lot of time. Drying the sink or moving socks or even going to the convenience store for milk is not.
You can also treat it as a disagreement on what’s valuable to do, so you can look together for a Third Alternative. Believe me, your mate will be far more motivated to find a solution to YOUR problem than to changing his or her normal behavior because you criticized it. Remember, you’re dealing with someone for whom the value in avoiding this annoyance is not obvious. It’s only obvious to you because of what hidden buttons it pushes in you.
An example: My husband could never tolerate the idea of putting contact lenses in his eyes or even watching me deal with my lenses. He understood right away when I explained how huge his little whisker bits left in the sink looked when I was balancing this little bit of clingy plastic on my fingertip to wash it. He had no problem with finding a way to help me, even though he would still not agree with me that there is anything wrong with missing a few whiskers otherwise.
If you want any help coming up with a Third Alternative for one of the small annoyances in your relationship, use the comments below. Tell me what your wife or husband does that annoys you and why. Let’s make it less annoying.